Canadian Underwriter

Mandatory corporate diversity policies soon to be Canada-wide

April 25, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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Amid discussion that insurance industry executives are disproportionately male in an industry composed primarily of women, a proposal to mandate diversity policies for boards of Canadian corporations is one step closer to becoming law.

The House of Commons voted April 19 in favour of changes made in March by the Senate to Bill C-25, which proposes several changes to the Canada Business Corporations Act [CBCA]. If passed into law, Bill C-25 would, among other things, require companies regulated under CBCA to “disclose to shareholders the composition of their boards and senior management,” federal innovation, Science and Economic Development minister Navdeep Bains said earlier.

Thursday’s vote came three weeks after the Ontario government, in a move backed by the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario [IBAO], said it plans to encourage companies in the province to ensure that at least 30 per cent of the directors on their boards are women.

Boards of companies in the insurance industry “are still quite male dominated,” IBAO CEO Colin Simpson told Canadian Underwriter earlier. He was commenting on an Ontario government’s March 28 announcement that it plans to encourage businesses to set a “target” of ensuring at least 30% of the directors on their boards are women.

Recent demographic research conducted by the Insurance Institute of Canada shows that although women made up 62% of the Canadian P&C industry in 2017, the proportion women at the management level was only 50 per cent.

Bill C-25 would require corporations to “make public their diversity policies” and those without a diversity policy “would have to explain why they do not have one,” Bains told the House of Commons in 2016 when he tabled Bill C25.

The Ontario government announced its plan to encourage diversity on corporate boards in its 2018-19 budget document.

“Based on the fact that our industry has a very high percentage of female employees, it’s going to be interesting to see how that unfolds,” Simpson told Canadian Underwriter earlier. He added IBAO is “very supportive” of that proposal, which the Ontario government made in its 2018-19 budget document.

Gender is one criteria used by Intact Financial Corp. in selecting nominees for its board, according to a March 29 Intact management information circular. Shareholders are entitled to vote for people nominated to Intact’s board.

Intact said at the time its board aims to have at least 30% of directors from “each gender.” Four of the 12 nominees to Intact’s board are women. They are: Sylvie Paquette, former president and chief operating officer of Desjardins General Insurance Group; Janet De Silva, president and CEO of Toronto Region Board of Trade; Eileen Mercier, former chief financial officer of Abitibi-Price Inc.; and Carol Stephenson, former dean of the Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ontario.